Recapping The Rob Bell Controversy

Primary Audience – To those of you who keep saying, “What’s going on with this whole …?”
Secondary Audience – Evangelicals.

A few of my friends have asked for my thoughts on the Rob Bell controversy.  Like so many, I too have a lot of thoughts and to be honest, though this last week was pretty drama-crazy, I think there’s a lot of good to see here.

But before I post those and because everything is contextual (and spiritual :), this is the recap from where I sit.

On the Saturday (2/25) before the Grammy’s Rob Bell released this video to promote his new book to be released March 15th Love Wins. Here’s the book description from the publisher Harper One: In Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith–the afterlife–arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and hismessage is decidedly optimistic–eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.

Sunday night, (Feb. 26), John Piper, Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist, author, etc. made this tweet and included a link to Justin Taylor’s post.

No joke, #Rob Bell was a twitter trend alongside on Grammys, James  Franco and Justin Bieber.


Justin Taylor blogs for the Gospel Coalition. This post, entitled “Rob Bell, Universalist?” was clicked thousands of times and went viral.

Thousands of tweets, FB status updates, blog posts, and conversations ensued.

Among the best posts I read were Scot McKnights “Waiting for Rob Bell Part 1″ and “Part 2″.  I think it’s also worth noting that Relevant Magazine used McKnight’s posts for their blog.  Also, in Part 1, Scot includes a brief overview of how his college students generally see ideas of the afterlife/universalism.  As a youth pastor, just this mention was of great interest to me.

Jason Boyett had an excellent post, “Thoughts About Rob Bell, John Piper, and Justin Taylor”

Tony Jones offered his two cents and asked if Bell was the Jason Bourne of Evangelism in “What’s Up With Rob Bell?”

My friend Evan made some excellent points in his post, “Rob Bell – The Belle of the Universalist Ball

Last week the NY Times had an article … on the front page.

My thoughts? I hope to express them Christianly (as so many actually have) throughout the week. Last week I was really irritated with the backlash from those that hadn’t read the book.

My wife and I are also going to go see Bell in NYC. Join us – Here is the ticket link and if you don’t live in the area or unable to attend, it will be streamed here.


  1. Dot Elwood says:

    Hey Tim,
    Didn’t know any of this until Jim Khuelke made a remark about Rob Bell last Wed night that had me going, “What?”.

    Thanks for an interesting blog and some good links. I’ll be waiting for me, and for Bell’s book to come out.


  2. The Slothful One says:

    Is all this about Apocatastasis?!? What’s old is new again! Many early Church Father commented on it, most notably Origin & St. Gregory of Nyssa. One was condemned for believing in it, among other things, and the other may have just skated by a similar fate and is now venerated as one of the great spiritual writers.

    The historic Church eventually settled against it as it went against free will, but at the same time its something we could hope for. It may also be part of the reason the Church offers prayers for the dead. Challenging stuff to say the least.

    Tim, I hearby repent of my initial condescension towards your “Emergent Conversation”. I think if you didn’t bring it up at the same time as your man-crush on our current POTUS, I may have been more receptive. :-)

  3. “What’s old is new again” – very true.

    I think it can also been seen as view that celebrates a free will and a benevolent God. But then again, there is a great deal of orthodoxy to get through.

    Is that how the sequence happened? In my mind, I remember it differently :) However, I never had a man-crush on our POTUS (if you remember I only voted for him in the primaries). I’ve only defended him against the charges of being the anti-christ, an idiot, and a terrorist. This is kind of my thing, unity is better than division even if the circumstances are not ideal.

  4. The Slothful One says:

    LOL, my last remark was with tongue firmly in cheek, brother! It was to compensate for all the compliments I’ve been throwing your way lately.

    I’ve read you posts out of order, so I may be missing the exact point of the controversy. I thought it was in regards to speculation that this gentlemen was to write about “universal salvation” i.e. Apocatastasis. I apologise if I’m wrong.

  5. Oh I know! Sorry, I was only reminding you of my distance from the POTUS while simultaneously holding back the witch-hunters – lol.

    I have appreciated your compliments and have only gained from your brotherly criticisms. I am literally reading a history book right now (ok I’m not but if I was more disciplined …)

    Regarding the Bell-universal salvation, I think you got it. But I don’t think he’s going to argue for universalism. He’ll dance and flirt but will return home to his hip bride orthodoxy (I think I’m going to use that line again – thanks).

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